The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2013

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NOV 2013 Issue

GG Allin Gets Trapped in America, Sends Word to the Empire

GG Allin
My Prison Walls

“We must keep the disease spreading and the real underground alive. Fuck the Law.” — GG Allin

I never attended a GG Allin show because I’m not into poo. It was a realistic possibility in the late 1980s and early ’90s to see GG play with the Murder Junkies on the heroin-saturated Lower East Side, which was about to begin its decade-long transformation into a place that GG neither could afford nor would be especially welcome in. In today’s Loisaida he would be viewed as a freak, an outdated relic of bygone punk times that at best adds flavor to the neighborhood. GG Allin would never have gone to yoga and if he had, he would have probably mounted a yoga girl. These pre-Giuliani streets contain a shadow history in which GG took his final walk down Avenue B and across Houston on June 27, 1993, after his infamous uncompleted show at the Gas Station. When power was cut, GG walked out bleeding, put on his fitted black boxers, motorcycle jacket, and Docs mid-step, and tried to hail a cab. None would take him initially, so he proceeded to walk with his entourage. King of the crusty punks, this strange piece of lore was recorded and frozen in time, destined to be preserved for YouTube posterity once YouTube was invented.

GG Allin, “Self-Portrait”

It was spectacle. It was always intended to be spectacle. He was a performer who was self-aware enough to make art out of his own pathologies and eccentricities, thereby transforming his penchant for public deviance into public performance. His oeuvre consisted of mortification of the flesh. His shows were interactive in that GG was infamous for going spastic, grabbing lewdly at people in his audience, punching anyone in the front row, defecating heartily on stage, and pelting his scat into the crowd. It’s hard to believe that anyone attended a GG Allin show accidentally, and I have to admit that as a teen, when my metal-loving skateboarder boyfriend tossed his waist-length black hair over his left shoulder and asked if I’d like to go see GG play, I responded with, “Wait, that’s the guy who throws his shit at the audience? Hell fuckin’ no! You have fun and tell me all about it.” GG Allin was a gypsy who toured prolifically and consistently, spreading his crass Rabelaisian gospel from coast to coast, when he wasn’t in jail, that is.

My Prison Walls is exactly that—a reproduction of GG Allin’s prison writings and drawings made during his incarceration at Washtenaw County Jail in Michigan. Later he was released then rearrested at a gig in Austin, Texas, and extradited back to Michigan. The second half of the prison writings takes place at Jackson Correctional Facility and Adrian Correctional Facility. To be clear, Washtenaw is a jail, essentially a holding facility where people are incarcerated to serve out short-term sentences. It is a low-rise grey building that yawns and expands, in the true nature of sprawl, over a small hill encased by a metal fence with barbed wire. Today, it reclines across the street from an overpriced sushi restaurant adjacent to a strip mall. Jackson, on the other hand, is a proper prison where individuals serve out long-term sentences. GG was arrested in Midlothian, IL on September 9, 1989. In Michigan he was charged with indecent exposure, assault and battery, and assault and battery with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder. Apparently, it had been a date gone wrong—a matter of he said/she said with consent being brought into question. It must have been difficult to date, being GG Allin. Taking into account what his public performances consisted of, it boggles the mind to think what his private proclivities must have been. He’s reputed to have been a golden-shower man—specifically, a piss drinker. Between the constant touring broken up by the occasional incarceration, how can there be a private world for GG Allin? He wants the blurring of lines between public and private. There is never any question that his prison writings are intended to be read and his ordeal celebrated outright. It is clear that wherever GG goes it becomes a one-man grotesque masquerade. All the world’s a stage, and the GG Allin traveling circus rages nonstop.

After about 1 hour of questioning they locked me in an overnight security cell. They had a monitor on me all night. I just sat in the corner of the cell in a ball where the camera could not see me. This pissed them off I think because they thought I was suicidal + they would have to come in + check on me. All I wanted to do was get a fucking sandwich since I hadent eatin all day so I kept yelling I was hungry. I also was getting horny. I had jerked off 3 times in Linda’s car while she was reading Garp + playing with my balls + I was sucking her nasty, rotten, smelly panties. But I was ready again, so I figured what to fuck. So I got up + jerked off in front of the camera. If they wanted a show I’ll give em one.

Cook County Jail, Chicago,
September 9, 1989

He writes on yellow legal paper, 8 1/2 by 11-inch blank and ruled notebook paper, and Michigan Department of Corrections Prisoner Stationery, all of which is reproduced beautifully in near- or full-size throughout. He writes in ink, blood, and feces. He illustrates his letters and envelopes with images of self-crucifixion, devil dogs, women in bondage, and buxom blondes. He journals and writes letters to friends and family. He is strip-searched, receives psychiatric evaluations, and goes through the pain of alcohol withdrawal. Missing Jim Beam, he bangs his head against the wall to assuage his alcohol cravings; GG’s mortification of the body played out in his signature banging of the microphone against his head throughout his career. He masturbates and masturbates and masturbates to the point where his over-the-top all-encompassing need to self-soothe through compulsive self-stimulation results in a scab on his penis. He receives periodic visits from a girlfriend named Linda, but always through glass. Like most incarcerated men he contemplates marriage, although perhaps wanting to take it to the next level with your girlfriend while in prison is nothing more than seeking a lifeline. He corresponds with No Wave filmmaker and photographer Richard Kern. He commissions a portrait for $200 from John Wayne Gacy, the most prolific serial killer in American history. Gacy takes his commission very seriously and asks specific questions about GG’s tattoos, as they aren’t clear in the photo provided. We discover that Gacy takes pride in his art, is a stickler for detail, and has a penchant for literary porn. He gives GG advice about manipulating the media toward one’s own end in their pre-internet world.

I always thought it was bullshit to keep quiet and let people say what they wanted with no responce. Now I am copyrighted with an agent and a corporation behind me, getting ready to do a CBS TV special this fall, and a two hour movie to back that up along with doing the talk show circuit, plus hitting every major magazine. Likewise I hope to release a new book on just what happen in my case.

John Waye Gacy, letter to GG Allin, May 1, 1990

GG’s correspondence with Gacy is ultimately intercepted and shut down by the correctional facility, and in his last letters from death row, a lonely Gacy seems perplexed and saddened that his friend has stopped writing to him.

Once transferred to Jackson Prison, GG contracts chicken pox, of all things, and writes very respectful letters to his mother wishing her a happy Mother’s Day and a happy birthday and, asking what her thoughts are on the presidential debates. There are also hopeful nods toward the future, and perhaps intimations of finding someone new to add to the Allin clan, “whoever we decide to bring into it one day.” In these letters, his penmanship is the neatest of all the reproduced correspondence pieces and he signs, “Love, Kevin.” (GG Allin was born Jesus Christ Allin on August 29, 1956. He was named by his father. At six, GG’s parents divorced. His mother promptly had his name legally changed to Kevin Michael Allin.) Ultimately GG is released from Jackson on probation but rearrested in Austin while on tour with the Murder Junkies and extradited back to Michigan to face an outstanding warrant for his arrest.

I can’t fucking believe these cunts. I got fucking arrested in Austin Texas during a show and these bastards had me extradited back to fucking Michigan. I’ve got to wait a couple of weeks to see the parole board to see what’s going to happen at this point. We ended up doing only 7 shows on the tour. So at this point everything is on hold until I find out what the parole board is going to do…I’m hoping it will only be 3–6 months. But you know how these pig fuckers in MI are…But as before, I will fight. I’m going to start working on lyrics for the next LP. The Murder Junkies are staying with me all the way.

Letter to M. Physema, Jackson Correctional Facility, Michigan, February 29, 1992

Perhaps the most enlightening element in GG Allin’s prison writings is his total dedication and commitment to his projects and career. He sends brother and bandmate Merle Allin illustrations for T-shirt designs and other promotional ideas, provides instructions on how the band should proceed, writing music for 10 new songs for which he’ll provide lyrics when he’s no longer incarcerated, gives instructions and coordinates regarding their signing to Enigma Records and appearance on a compilation from ROIR, two pivotal punk and alternative music record labels of the 1980s. In between stints in jail, GG Allin and the Murder Junkies were astute and diligent about booking tours and radio interviews to promote their gigs. Considering GG Allin appeared to be a whirlwind of chaos on stage, with no defining parameters or cultural context, it is revealing that he is astutely aware of being his own product like every other artist, writer, musician, and performer. In a sense, this legitimizes his art. Yes, art.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s a line of demarcation was being drawn at the final frontier of what was perceived to be obscene in the arts. This played out on two fronts, Tipper Gore’s pet project the Parents Music Resource Center (P.M.R.C.), which successfully sought to rate and label music thought questionable for minors or outright obscene, and congressional blocking of N.E.A. grants for the arts. Started in 1985, the P.M.R.C. succeeded in stickering all questionable vinyl albums and CDs with a Parental Advisory label warning of explicit or questionable content.

Further, the aesthetic or cultural climate in the United States of this era was one in which Congress had declared war on the N.E.A. Or more precisely, Congress began scrutinizing a very liberal and progressive peer-review-based N.E.A process, and began vetoing and bullying the N.E.A, blocking funding of certain artists on the basis of alleged indecency and obscene content. It’s doubtful that GG Allin ever applied for or received public funding, but in the time and place that he occupied this is what he was dancing on the very periphery of. In 1990, Congress condemned Karen Finley and the N.E.A. Four, performance artists who the N.E.A. approved for grants which were then vetoed by Congress. In 1989 the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. was prepared to show a dying Robert Mapplethorpe’s final exhibition, which was publicly funded, then refused it based on content. When The Portable Lower East Side, a New York-based literary journal, failed to have its N.E.A. funding renewed after publishing a Live Sex Acts issue, Republican Senator Jesse Helms raised a copy up on the floor of Congress as an example of deplorable and misguided funding of obscenity in the guise of the arts. Helms also targeted Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ,” a 1987 photograph of a crucifix submerged in golden liquid with a diagonal stream of light illuminating it. The liquid happens to be Serrano’s urine, and the photograph would probably be universally considered mournful and beautiful if it weren’t for that added element of discomfort, which forces the viewer to reevaluate their perceptions of the image before them. It does that thing that makes the arts dangerous—it forces the viewer to think.


Would you be interested in doing the flyer for my last + final bloody mutilation gig that will take place the first Halloween of my release, let me know.


Letter to Nick Bougas, Adrian Correctional Facility, January, 1991

GG Allin had planned to commit suicide on stage the first Halloween performance after his release in 1992. He’d been criticized publicly for announcing his suicide in prior years but not following through. Why were people so angry with GG Allin for not dying sooner? His public display of the death drive isn’t a far cry from the theatricality of public execution in the town square at a time before television, Internet, and indoor plumbing, where your peace-loving neighbors were suddenly transformed into screaming maniacs, their bloodlust spurred on by the sheer boredom of life before the Industrial Revolution. Consider Darby Crash committing suicide by taking an intentional heroin overdose, only to be vastly overshadowed by Mark David Chapman’s shooting of John Lennon the following day. The theater of suicide is unpredictable; fate is a fickle thing.

GG grows more and more intent on the idea of committing suicide on stage while in prison. Probably because he is forced into some semblance of sobriety, his thoughts become clarified and focused. He certainly was the consummate dark showman, but there is something generous, albeit profanely solipsistic, about the notion of giving it all away on stage so completely.

9 more fucking months + I can get back to my destination. Like you said to me, I will not broadcast it until my release. But I am still going to go through with my plans. The only change will be the location. I will be doing it in London. It is already being arranged. What better way to end it all than in another country. I feel more strongly about it every day. But let’s keep this to ourselves. Prison has helped me strengthen my mind to carry it out all the more.

Letter to Merle & Mishie Allin, Ann Arbor

Why are we so fascinated by the notion of public death? By indecent public exposure? Why are we fascinated by GG Allin’s renowned micro-phallus? His head pouring blood from a self-inflicted microphone throttling? His homegrown tattoos? His mutilated body? The standard explanation is that those who push the margins out further and further protect the rights of those in the center. So in effect, by throwing his feces at you, GG Allin was protecting your freedom of speech. Years before GG performed naked and bloody on stage Jim Morrison was arrested for indecent exposure on stage at the Dinner Key Auditorium in Miami, Florida, when he supposedly asked the audience if they’d like to see his penis, then possibly revealed his penis, then asked for confirmation about whether or not they’d seen it. It has always remained unclear whether Morrison really did show his member to the audience, but the most fascinating question is why the audience wanted to see it. Did they like him better or worse for this act? Would they be disappointed if he hadn’t revealed himself? In the theater of live performance fueled by drugs and alcohol, it’s difficult to assign solid intent as it pertains to the performer twisting and turning the perceptions of his or her audience, but what could be considered a prank with Morrison turns into an oeuvre when it comes to GG Allin. GG is perpetuating this tradition of crowd manipulation while playing with perceptions of obscenity. He compares himself to Van Gogh, and rightly so: Van Gogh existed outside the realm of what was the art world of his contemporaries. Van Gogh was a freak who cut off his own ear and presented it to a prostitute—an act of self-mutilation GG Allin obviously approved of.

They will either hate you or love you, laugh at you etc…But in there [sic] narrow little minds it is all they have to do because I am a fucking genius + they know it. They also laughed and hated to death Van Gogh + other great artists. So fuck them.

Letter to Merle, Jackson Correctional Facility


Margarita Shalina

MARGARITA SHALINA is a writer and translator who lives in New York.


The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2013

All Issues